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#GoldNuggets: The Puerto Ricans

   11-01-2016
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The Trivia:  I was born in Gainesville, Fla., and I was the Baseball America College Player of the Year in 2006 when I played for the University of North Carolina . My uncle was a kicker in the NFL, and played college football at the University of Miami. This year, I became the first pitcher since 1988 to earn a save for and against the Yankees in the same season! Who am I?

The Puerto Ricans

Puerto Rico’s proud baseball heritage is being well represented in the World Series by the Cubs’ Javier Baez and the Indians’ Franscisco Lindor and Roberto Perez. The players’ birthplace, struggling economically these days with high unemployment and poverty, has been a source of great players for decades going back to the likes of Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda, who were followed by a generation of players that included Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, Bernie Williams and Carlos Delgado. Today’s stars from the island territory include veteran superstars Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina as well as another new wave that in addition to Baez, Lindor and Perez also includes all-star Carlos Correa of the Astros, who won the Players Choice Award as the AL’s outstanding rookie in 2015. Perez, 27 and the veteran of the Puerto Rican trio in the World Series, is a backup catcher and doesn’t have the baseball pedigree of first-round draft picks Baez and Lindor. "They deserve all the attention they get because of their talent and the potential they have to be super stars,” Perez told ESPN.com. “I am just really happy for both of them, for their much deserved success. I don't care about being recognized or talked about. That doesn't faze me. It motivates me to quietly just keep working harder." Each of the players hopes kids in Puerto Rico who are watching them in the Series are dreaming about playing the game themselves. “We want to inspire more young people to continue moving forward and to fight for their dreams,” Baez said. “What better example than what Lindor and I have done to get here? And please don't leave Bebo (Perez) out, because he is also making Puerto Rico proud." Lindor, whose .421 average led all batters in the World Series going into Game 6, said, "We hope the young people in Puerto Rico understand that Javy and I grew up with very few things, but we had the support of our parents, the support of our family and the desire and hunger to excel. I hope they understand that one can achieve anything, no matter your background.”

The Final Push

It’s been a long time, but Cubs Game 5 starter Jon Lester is ready to pitch in relief, if needed, in the final two games of the World Series. Interestingly, the previous two times Lester came in from the bullpen were against the Indians in the AL Championship Series when he was a 23-year-old with the Red Sox and Terry Francona was his manager. Lester allowed an 11th-inning, three-run homer to Franklin Gutierrez in Game 2 and threw another scoreless three innings of mop-up work in Game 3 – both losses before the Red Sox stormed back to win the ALCS and then the World Series. Lester hasn’t pitched in relief in the nine years since then and Francona now manages the Indians, but he declared himself ready as they Series moved back to Cleveland. “Hey, whatever we've got to do,” Lester told Comcast Sportsnet Chicago. “I mean, this time of year there's no barriers, there's no nothing. It's all hands on deck.” It was a little difficult for Lester to envision the need given that the Cubs’ talented bullpen already includes the likes of Aroldis Chapman, Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Travis Wood, but, hey, you never know. “I love our bullpen,” he said. “I love what these guys have done, but if there's a match-up in there that Joe (Maddon) likes, I'll be ready.”


The Clubhouse Guru

Michael Brantley is a legitimate star who would likely be playing in the outfield for the Indians this World Series if not for an injured shoulder, but he’s been contributing in ways beyond loaning bats to pitcher Corey Kluber as he did in Game 5. While he hasn’t been able to play since mid-May when he had season-ending surgery, Brantley, 29, was an all-star and Silver Slugger Award winner who finished third in AL Most Valuable Player voting in 2014, so his teammates listen when he speaks. “He gives me that sense of calmness,” shortstop Francisco Lindor told WKYC in Cleveland. “I go up to him like, ‘Brantley, what do you think? What would you do against this pitcher?’ He’ll tell me what his approach will be, and I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m going to go do that.’ We talk and I listen.” For his part, Brantley has put aside the frustration that comes with not being able to play and stayed with his teammates each step of the way, traveling and remaining part of what has been an extraordinary clubhouse atmosphere. "Anything information-wise I can give or help throughout the course of a game that I've learned or I see, I try to help them out," Brantley said. "It's not the ideal situation for me. I'd love to be out there playing. But at the same time, I'll do whatever I can to help this team win."

The Base Stealer

Midway through the postseason Rajai Davis was telling MLBPLAYERS.com how happy he was with his role on the Indians, particularly having the “freedom to do what I do best on the base paths, which is to create havoc and cause distractions. Now he has had the opportunity to demonstrate that skill in the World Series. The 36-year-old speedster on Sunday became the oldest player to steal three bases during a World Series game and only Indians player ever to accomplish the feat. Following a single, Davis stole second and third against Aroldis Chapman and represented the tying run before Chapman struck out Francsico Lindor to end the threat. Davis, who batted .249 with 12 home runs and 48 RBIs and led the AL with 43 stolen bases in 49 attempts during the regular season, was hoping to get another opportunity to do what he does best against Cubs starter Jake Arrieta in Game 6. "The key is just getting on base, getting some guys with some speed on base too," Davis said. "He has some quick feet, but he's a guy who is susceptible to a stolen base, especially if he's not making good pitches, not throwing strikes. As base stealers, we have to take advantage of what he gives us and be ready."

The Ratings

The 2016 World Series is attracting a level of television viewership that defies expectations for our cable-dropping, cord-cutting era. Game 5 on Sunday night was watched by 23.6 million viewers, the most for a Game 5 since Oct. 23, 1997 when 24.2 million people watched the Florida Marlins beat the Indians 8-7 and up 37 percent from last year’s clinching Game 5. The big audience also gave baseball a rare ratings win over the NFL, which drew 18 million viewers for Sunday Night Football.

The Answer:  Andrew Miller